Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.-AL I:40.
Most Thelemites are familiar with the grid which appears on the manuscript across an entire page in Chapter Three of Liber AL vel Legis. This grid, along with the mystery of Tzaddi, the code in II:76 and the notion of an English Qabalah and a few other mysteries have led more students astray than we care to wag a stick at. Over the years we have seen numerous articles appearing in some of the best Thelemic journals and magazines purporting to discover the 'truth' behind the mysterious grid. Some of the conclusions are fascinating but most interpretations usually reflect the personal proclivities of the individual rather than undisputed evidence for all to follow. The reason for this problem is that most researchers ignore the obvious while keeping their head stuck in the clouds in quest of a solution. With this article we shall examine the most obvious. We will question the validity and origin of the grid itself.
We know that Aleister Crowley claims he lost the original handwritten manuscript shortly after leaving Cairo in 1904. Of course this is debatable but, for the sake of an argument, let's say it is true. He tells us that he found the missing manuscript on June 28th of 1909 and decided to publish a facsimile of it a few years later. This facsimile appeared in 1912 edition of The Equinox, or Volume I Number 7. It is important to realize that at this point in time the manuscript did not have the grid on it. Most modern Thelemic theorists are unaware of this fact. They simply open their Equinox, look at the manuscript between pages 386-387 and, low and behold, there is the grid. Most assume that modern editions are faithful reproductions of the manuscript as it was published in 1912. This is not true. When The Equinox was republished in 1972 by Samuel Weiser they did not use a copy of the manuscript from the 1912 edition. Instead they used the version which appeared in The Equinox of the Gods (1936) which has the grid.
The first time the grid ever appeared on the manuscript of Liber AL vel Legis was in the edition which was published in 1925. This is often referred to as the 'Tunis' edition. Since we know the grid appeared here first and not in The Equinox, common sense dictates that somewhere between the dates of 1912 and 1925 Crowley added it into the manuscript. Many scholars believe that this occurred during Crowley's Cefalu period.
If you do not have access to an original copy of The Equinox there are only two books which have appeared in recent years which faithfully reproduce the facsimile of Liber AL vel Legis without the grid as it appeared in 1912. One appears in the first edition of The Law is For All, edited by Israel Regardie (MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1975). The second appears in the Mandrake Press Ltd/Holmes Publishing edition of The Equinox I No.7 which was published in 1992.
The major problem with modern researchers is that they often wrongly assume that Aleister Crowley added the grid onto the manuscript while he was in Cairo in 1904, thus giving the grid some kind of original importance. Even a claim that it doesn't matter when Crowley added the grid, that he's our Prophet and therefore it has meaning, is a flawed and pointless assumption. Let's examine the actual verse on the page in Liber AL vel Legis which is 'supposedly' being revealed by the grid.
"This book shall be translated into all tongues: but always with the original
in the writing of the Beast; for in the chance shape of the letters and their position
to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall divine. Let him not seek
to try: but one cometh after him, whence I say not, who shall discover the Key of
it all. Then this line drawn is a key: then this circle squared in its failure is a key also.
And Abrahadabra. It shall be his child & that strangely. Let him not seek after this;
for thereby alone can he fall from it." (AL III:47)
The verse clearly states that it contains mysteries which "no Beast shall divine" and it obviously warns Crowley not to try. Although he admits in his 1912 Commentary to this verse that "These mysteries are inscrutable to me" we can only wonder what made him think that adding a grid, years later, might reveal the mysteries to him. In our opinion, this grid is simply meaningless. It is merely a blemish on the original manuscript and any meaning which you might extrapolate from it is found only in the mind of the beholder.
Love is the law, love under will.-AL I:57
This article is an excerpt from a longer Epistle. It was recently published
in Red Flame, A Thelemic Research Journal, No.8 Liber AL vel Legis.